Every business owner know the value of in having an intuitive, easy-to-use website that attracts new users and pushes them further down the sales funnel. At first glance, creating one of these digital masterpieces may seem pretty straightforward — at least until you realize just how complicated they can be. How does web design work in the first place? Which target audiences should you build your site to attract? And how are you supposed to optimize the site for search engines so your clients can find you?
Our web design and development process is a proven methodology that we have used successfully for many years. This process is a series of steps that build upon one another, reducing risk and arriving at a final website through a structured approach.
For more than a decade, Forefront has been designing and developing websites that are not only amazing design, but also deliver maximum ROI. We specialize in human-centered design, leveraging user personas, interactive prototypes and bold creative content to create sites that captivate and engage. To give you a better idea of how we work, let’s walk through our web design and development process.
STEP 1: THE DESIGN DISCOVERY PHASE
At Forefront, we center each website around in-depth user personas, using them as a baseline to create custom user journeys within the site. But before we flesh out these user archetypes, we perform a comprehensive competitive analysis to identify your company’s specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to find the best way to position your brand. From there, we perform research on your demographics and help you define your target audience, creating detailed personas to uncover the needs and expectations of your ideal users. With a clear audience in mind, we collaborate with your team to perform content brainstorming, pinning down the exact assets we’ll need to engage with your users and drive them to convert.
Once we have an intimate understanding of your target audience and the content your site needs, we move on to customer journey mapping. This is essentially the process of mapping out everything your site could contain, from specific pages and content layouts to animations and design elements. The purpose of customer journey mapping is to detail how a customer should use each section of the site—including the actions they’ll take and the emotions they’ll feel. It’s a playground we use to explore new ideas and construct the outstanding user experience we want to create. Afterward, we take all the elements from your customer journey map and narrow them down into a hierarchy of precise page structures through mind mapping—eventually polishing it down into a finalized sitemap.
STEP 2: THE SITEMAP PHASE
You should view your sitemap as a master blueprint for the website. It marks every prominent page structure your site will contain. During site mapping, Forefront’s designers outline parent, child and grandchild branches within each structure of your site. This is also the part where our SEO specialists get involved to optimize each structure for search engines and ensure that any successful navigation remains strong. Because we accommodates website builds for both B2B and B2C brands, we can center your sitemap around generating leads or user purchases. No matter which actions you’d like your users to take, our web designers can develop a dynamic customer journey that compels them into action.
STEP 3: THE WIREFRAME PHASE
A wireframe is an illustration of a specific site page’s interface that details its content, functionalities and intended user behaviors. Working alongside our UX experts, you’ll play an important role in building content that enhances your site’s responsive design. Our creative team closely follows your user personas to develop inspiring, audience-based content that meshes seamlessly with your brand. Whether you work in the B2B or B2C business, our seasoned creatives will create a dynamic UX that compliments your brand and delivers results.
To guarantee efficient collaboration, we use an interactive prototype to display and refine each site page. Your finished wireframes will underline any special functionalities (page navigation, hovers, etc.) and relay how users will use them. They’ll also include annotations that will ultimately become your functionality doc, but we’ll get to that later. We then pass your wireframes over to the SEO Team to make sure that your pages are SEO-friendly and properly accommodate copy. Forefront search engine experts will also identify opportunities for internal linking, category tags and long-tail keywords here.
STEP 4: THE DESIGN PHASE
Now we’re talking! Once we’ve ironed out your optimized wireframes, it’s time to finish up our designs. During this phase, we test our human-centered designs against your personas, using every unique template that exists from the wireframe state. Our Creative Team will finalize each aspect of your site—including its content, colors, hovers, animations and images—making any revisions you request. Thanks to our interactive prototype, all you have to do is annotate specific pages with any changes you’d like to see; we handle the rest. Once your team approves our designs, Forefront’s SEO Team takes one last look at each page to ensure the copy and layouts align with the latest and greatest SEO strategies, and then it’s off to development.
STEP 5: THE DEVELOPMENT PHASE
Now that we’ve finalized the design you and your audience will adore, our Creative Team makes a style tile for your site (consisting of the fonts, colors, interface elements and other visual assets we developed for your brand) and hands the keys over to our experienced developers—along with a comprehensive functionality doc. This resource communicates your site’s technical functionality, including how the internal navigation works and how widgets function and adapt. In short, your functionality doc will also contain everything our developers need to incorporate into your website. This is also where our team will perform technical SEO to maximize the visibility of your site.
STEP 6: THE QUALITY ASSURANCE PHASE
Websites that don’t work can’t convert. That’s why we perform extensive quality assurance (QA) testing across your entire site to ensure everything is working as intended. This phase is all about making sure your website delivers the speed and quality your users demand and deserve. To begin, we tests your site in multiple browsers and reviews the functionalities documented throughout the previous phases to make sure it performs well on all relevant devices. We comb through each page to identify and resolve broken links, bugs, glitches and any other errors that detract from your site. Last but not least, we have both parties sign off on the site to confirm that it meets all expectations—and start planning for the second phase of your project. By the end of this step, your new site will be fully optimized and ready for launch. Get that champagne ready!